Polysaccharide Gums May Promote Probiotic Growth in Milk


Xanthan, carrageenan, and other polysaccharide gums were found to promote growth of certain probiotic strains in a new study.

Photo © iStockphoto.com/ ValentynVolkov

Photo © iStockphoto.com/ ValentynVolkov

Researchers at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T; Greensboro, NC) recently found that different polysaccharide gums may promote the growth of several different probiotic strains in milk. The study investigated how 9 different polysaccharide gums influenced growth of Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains in either fluid milk or a modified basal medium.

Researchers combined each of the probiotic strains with different polysaccharide gums in milk or basal media, and then allowed the samples to incubate at 37°C for 12 hours. The tested gums included inulin, locust bean, xanthan, guar, pectin, guar-locust bean-carrageenan, pectin-carrageenan, carrageenan-maltodextrin, and carrageenan.

Researchers found that growth of the L. rhamnosus GG B101 strain in milk was most enhanced by the addition of xanthan, carrageenan-maltodextrin, and carrageenan, while growth of the L. rhamnosus GG B103 strain in milk was most enhanced by xanthan and carrageenan-maltodextrin. Many of the other polysaccharide gums were also found to enhance the growth of the L. rhamnosus strains, but to lesser extents.

Similarly, carrageenan and carrageenan-maltodextrin were also found to be among the most effective gums at enhancing the growth of the L. reuteri DSM200016 strain in milk, but locust bean also appeared to be effective at promoting growth of L. reuteri in milk.

Researchers noted that “these results support previous findings that showed carrageenan-matlodextrin could promote growth and viability of Lactobacillus strains.” They also commented on xanthan, which was found to stimulate “the highest growth of L. rhamnosus GG strains, but led to a slight inhibition in the growth of L. reuteri strains in both milk and media.”

The long carbon structure and slow digesting nature of the polysaccharides may explain why they enhanced probiotic growth, the researchers hypothesized. Bernice Karlton-Senaye, PhD, one author of the study, suggested the study findings could have implications on the market potential of certain probiotic strains.

“Some probiotics fight infection, reduce lactose intolerance, and some are anti-cancer. They help you in so many ways, but they have to be alive both in food and in the gut,” Karlton-Senaye. “Keeping probiotics alive will enhance the health of society and improve a company’s market value.”


Read more:

Are Probiotics Moving Beyond Gut Health?

Prebiotic Ingredients: Nondigestible Oligosaccharides


Michael Crane
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook Magazine


Senaye et al., “Comparing the effect of gums on the growth of Lactobacillus species in laboratory medium and fluid milk,” Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Engineering, vol. 2, no. 3 (July, 2015): 00054.

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